Zardari – by M Ziauddin

The writer is Executive Editor of The Express Tribune

Zardari had entered the presidency with lots and lots of baggage. “Mr 10 per cent” is Pakistan’s president, the world mocked. Being the single biggest beneficiary of his wife’s death, many of his pathological haters went searching for his hand behind the tragedy. His baggage was so heavy that every crook and crooked institution in this country felt as if God had sent for them the much-needed cover to carry on their sleaze without being made accountable. They knew by instinct that Zardari would be blamed for it all. The biggest beneficiaries were the rotten and corrupt instruments of governance. Their failure to help the Zardari government govern with any degree of effectiveness, too, used to be brushed under the Zardari baggage. We all know who besides the civil service, police, judiciary and the armed forces make up the instruments of governance. Even those who allowed a military dictator to amend the Constitution on his own and those who provided him the much-needed crutches to walk through nine long years of dictatorship were forgiven and forgotten because of Zardari. When a son of a head of an institution made billions out of thin air, the question got shunted out of sight to keep the focus on Zardari.

Zardari had nothing to do with the NRO. It had happened between the late Benazir Bhutto and former military dictator Pervez Musharraf with the US mediating. Who does not know that it was because of this very NRO that an election was held in 2008 and many of those removed and put in house arrest by the dictator could be reinstated. But it was Zardari and Zardari alone who was relentlessly assaulted using the NRO cane. It was impressed upon all those who were willing to be impressed that the NRO was drafted specifically to save Zardari from being tried for all those ‘sins’ for which he had already suffered 11 years in jail. Then began a ruthless campaign to have him sent to Swiss courts to face charges of alleged money-laundering. When everything failed, his prime minister was first herded into an impossible position and then sent home on charges of contempt of court. This, too, could be sold because of the imagined and un-imagined Zardari baggage. One only hopes that in a new set-up, this judgment is overturned. The memogate affair also comes under the same baggage rule.

After the instruments of governance, the other biggest beneficiary of Zardari’s presence in the presidency with his baggage was the crooked part of the media. Every crooked talk show host and columnist made his millions by maligning Zardari on a daily basis. One media house, which owns an NGO, received millions from the American, British and Norwegian aid agencies for running public service programmes! Many of its staffers have been receiving unexplained personal grants from the government’s secret funds. Few are running their own businesses. One runs an investigative journalism NGO and publishes in his own newspaper, half-baked and unsubstantiated ‘investigative reports’ sourcing the NGO! A well-known philanderer and drunkard pontificates through his columns and talk show discussions and gets away with it because of the Zardari baggage. Again, these crooks could escape accountability because they shouted the loudest in the campaign against Zardari, blaming him for everything bad in this country. Now that he has left the presidency, after completing his five-year term, defeating all their shenanigans to have him removed either physically or through the courts, they still seem to be after him. They want him to be tried for indulging in all those self-imagined acts of corruption during his five years in the presidency in which he is supposed to have made billions, nay trillions. Most of these people perhaps, do not even know how many zeroes are there in a billion or a trillion. They want the courts to stop him from leaving the country and escaping with his billions and trillions. Even when the murderous Taliban warned at gunpoint just before the polls that they would not let the PPP campaign, the entire media, civil society and the so-called democracy-loving political and judicial institutions adopted a callous silence without perhaps, feeling an iota of guilt.

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